Translation as a means of transferring value from the source to the target language and from one “code” to another.

Translation is “the act of transferring a text into a language different from the source language”. The term “transferring” represents a concept that is often lost in the overall assessment when a translation is commissioned. Let’s see why. 

If we need to translate a text from Italian into another language, the first thought that comes into our minds should not be “I’m going to contact someone who knows the target language”. Knowing a foreign language does not necessarily mean you automatically know how to transfer the meaning we want to express. A translator can have perfect knowledge of the grammar, without however the ability to express the concept we want to convey to our target audience. A good translation can be defined as such, when the grammar is correct and the content effectively reaches the target with the right meaning.
Let’s take a look at a few examples.

If you are looking to translate a legal text, the translator you address should not only know the target language, but should also have proven experience in the field; the so-called translation of legalese in fact is not only about properly translating a single word, with a number of available tools for the translator. It’s also about specific experience matured in the field, which allows the translator to have a familiarity with certain expressions that cannot always be found in dictionaries and which are commonly used in writing. Another way of looking at it is those who have proven experience in translating technical or scientific texts are not necessarily qualified to correctly and properly translate a legal text. 
This concept is valid for other sectors as well, like technical translations (manuals, standard supply specifications, technical datasheets,…) or medical/scientific ones, where the terminology is extremely specific, requiring a prior experience in the field that cannot be improvised or replaced by using only the support of a dictionary. 

What about international communication? How should we approach the eventual translation of a website, for example? 

First, we have to understand the real and final aim of the customer. 
If the translation is supposed to represent a calling card, without however the intention of undertaking specific activities on foreign markets, what should the approach to the translation be? In this case, a proper and correct translation of the website into English, for example, while maintaining however both the structure and look of the Italian website, would be the correct way to proceed. 

If the customer instead is looking to sell a product/service on one or more international markets, we are faced with a process known as localisation, which is the adaptation of the contents to the linguistic and cultural habits of the target market. If, on the one hand, we find ourselves facing a “global market”, on the other hand, our customer is not always necessarily equally “global”. If we speak with a French person, for example, and use the term computer/laptop, there is no doubt they will understand us, since the word in English is common and widely used. However, if we are interested in selling a computer or related services on the French market, and would like to index our website in the best way possible, while targeting our customers and their most popular web searches, wouldn’t it be better to use the French term ordinateur/ordinateur portable? Let’s think about it….

The need to introduce/sell a product/service on one or more target markets requires not only a good translation, but also an understanding of the culture we are addressing, with the optimization of both linguistic contents and website structure to suit the target market.

When speaking of translation/communication, it is clear that the channel/style/language chosen must be accordingly adapted to suit the final means/media/support in use: 
    • A slogan for an online/offline advertising campaign
    • The text of a catalogue
    • The instruction manual of a product or a quality certificate
    • A post on a blog
    • The institutional text of a website or corporate video
    • A discussion on a social network
    • A press release
    • Etc.

For each of the above-mentioned options and for the infinite number of communication needs in the world of marketing, the most suitable approach for transferring from a language and/or a code to another one must be identified and can include for example:

    • Maintaining the sense of creativity as much as possible
    • Considering the eventual representatives/endorsers available for a social and/or a digital campaign
    • Respecting the use of the most relevant technical terms
    • Striving to the use the terms and synonyms deemed most advantageous for the best possible indexing on search engines
    • Keeping pace with the evolution of multimedia contents
    • Delving as far as possible into the mentality and sayings of the target culture
    • Understanding the habits and traditions of that specific corner of the world and its relative audience
    • Etc.

All this excludes automatic translation software and programs, which are increasingly effective and accurate, while still remaining quite far however from the human ability (maybe even exclusive ability) to create and maintain the value of the contents and information being transferred in a professional translation.  

So, the process of translation/localisation in communication involves not only intercultural aspects, but also refers to the linguistic/terminology specialisation mentioned above.

A customer can sell clothing, machinery or even services. Every one of these segments, however, will require its own codes and language, specific terminology, as well as a correct and understandable context that is both immediate and effective at the same time, while capably involving the end customer. 

Last, but not least, there is the perception of the translator that must follow two directions: understanding the goals of the customer and knowing how to adapt these goals to the target market the translation is addressing. 

All this is translation.

Laura Zanerini



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